Redmayne 'honour' at Hawking role
Bafta front-runner Eddie Redmayne insisted the real honour in playing scientific genius Stephen Hawking was meeting the man himself.
The actor, who is hot favourite to carry off the prestigious leading actor award, is nominated along with his co-star Felicity Jones who plays his wife in The Theory Of Everything.
The film, which is based on the memoirs of Hawking's ex-wife Jane, deals with their relationship, his scientific success and the onset of motor neurone disease which left him severely disabled, and has been a huge hit with the critics.
Redmayne said: "The most rewarding part of it was getting to meet Stephen, Jane and the Hawking family. The whole film was this extraordinary mixture of great privilege and great responsibility and just being able to enter the lives of these people for a few months and to hear their stories. Even just to spend time with them was truly an honour."
Among the names challenging Redmayne for the leading actor honour are Michael Keaton and fellow Briton Benedict Cumberbatch.
But Redmayne insisted there was no rivalry between him and the Sherlock star, who is nominated for his performance as another ground-breaking scientist - wartime codebreaker and computing pioneer Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.
He said: "I absolutely adore that man and think he's the most brilliant actor. And for me it's a real privilege to be in a list alongside him. He's an old friend and a wonderful talent."
Jones, nominated alongside Hollywood heavyweights Julianne Moore and Amy Adams, said she was "stunned and excited" and was exchanging messages with her co-star Redmayne.
Speaking from Los Angeles, she said: "We're just about to go to bed, but we've all been emailing each other and exclaiming with excitement."
The actress said she had been delighted by Jane's response to the film and her portrayal of her, saying: "Jane wrote a lovely email saying how lucky she felt that a story had been made of her and Stephen's life while they're still alive, because usually films aren't made about people until they're dead. She's just been very warm about it, so it's been incredible."
The other actors in the running against Redmayne are Ralph Fiennes and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Jones also faces competition from Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon.
Other nominations include nods for Cumberbatch's co-star Keira Knightley and Imelda Staunton for best supporting actress and Steve Carell and Ethan Hawke for best supporting actor.
The awards, seen as a dry run for the Oscars, will be handed out on Sunday February 8 at a glittering ceremony at London's Royal Opera House hosted by Stephen Fry.
Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel heads the nominations list with 11, one ahead of Keaton's Birdman and The Theory of Everything.
The Imitation Game received nine nods.
All four are on the short-list for Best Film along with Richard Linklater's Boyhood.
The US director said it was "thrilling" to be recognised.
Among The Theory Of Everything's other nominations are for best British film, best adapted screenplay and best director for James Marsh.
Mike Leigh's Mr Turner is nominated for four awards including costume design and make up and hair but there was no recognition for Timothy Spall's performance in the title role which won him the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
David Oyelowo's performance as US civil rights leader Martin Luther King in Selma was also ignored by Bafta.
The battle for best British film sees the Hawking biopic face competition from '71 - a drama set in Belfast in the early years of the troubles - and Paddington which starred Ben Whishaw and Nicole Kidman and was based on author Michael Bond's books about the marmalade sandwich-loving bear.
Also nominated is Pride - based on the real-life alliance between gay rights activists and striking miners in the 1980s - and science fiction thriller Under The Skin.
Among the other awards presented on the night is the Rising Star, which recognises the best new talent.
Unbroken actor Jack O'Connell is among those nominated along with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who starred in last year's period drama Belle as a mixed-race aristocrat, and Margot Robbie, who first found fame playing Donna Freedman in TV soap Neighbours and has gone on to appear in The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Also in the running for the gong, formally known as the EE Rising Star Award, are Miles Teller, who has recently appeared in Whiplash, and his Divergent co-star Shailene Woodley.
Fiennes, nominated for his turn as the devoted concierge in The Grand Budapest Hotel, said: "I'm delighted of course, merci Madame Bafta. Dom Perignon all around for guests and staff at The Grand Budapest Hotel. And a free sample of Eau de Panache too, darling."